Syria pressures U.S. to support to Lebanese government

A top U.S. diplomat pledged America's support Wednesday for Lebanon, which has been battered by a spree of bombings, and paid a symbolic visit to a journalist maimed in the latest blast.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State David Welch's hospital visit to prominent anchorwoman May Chidiac, plus talks with government officials, came days before the release of findings from a U.N. investigation into former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination and amid increased Syrian pressure against Lebanon.

Blame for the bombings has been placed on Syria, which controlled Lebanese affairs in Lebanon since the mid-1970s until it was forced to withdraw its troops from this country amid the outcry following Hariri's Feb. 14 slaying. Damascus and its former Lebanese allies have repeatedly denied any role.

Chidiac lost an arm and a leg on Sept. 25 when a bomb exploded under her car north of Beirut in the latest in a string of mysterious attacks targeting politicians, journalists and commercial and residential areas in Lebanon since Syrian withdrew its troops from here in April.

The U.S. envoy, who also met Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh and Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, expressed the United States' "strongest support" for Lebanon.

Welch and Lebanese officials also discussed bilateral relations and an international donors' conference for Lebanon expected to convene before the end of 2005, reported AP. P.T.

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